Play Therapy is a method of working with children and young people who have social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties through the medium of play.
It recognises that play is a child’s natural medium for self-expression. 80% of children will benefit from free play, playing with/through toys in their natural way to work through their inner thoughts and feelings. However, it is recognised that 20% of children are unable to do that. These individuals have more they need to work through, the process works because they have a therapist by their side supporting them.
Play Therapy can:
Who is Play Therapy For?
My Role as a Play Therapist is...
To consistently interact with the child or young person throughout the session in an open, accepting, and respectful manner, allowing us to build a trusting relationship.
In the early stages of therapy, I like to remain non-directive which means the individual can choose what and how to play in the room in a unrestricted way. I follow their lead and participate in their play when invited, as well as providing observations and reflections that will help children to learn more about themselves and their world. Boundaries are set between myself and the individual to determine an understanding of how we use the space, their input in this is important to me. Once a relationship has been built and a direction of where the child is open for the sessions to go I start to implement more directive and structured play to help them to work through what they need too.
Arts & Crafts
Creating provides a different way to express feelings without words, giving the opportunity to put imagery to thoughts and feelings and visualise their experiences in a different way, as well as helping to develop creativity.
Musical instruments encourage communication through sound. This can be particularly powerful for children who struggle to talk, those who are selective mute or who have learning difficulties can find music a safe alternative way to communicate
Through role play, children can ’try out’ situations in a safe environment. They can embody characters and feel what it’s like to stand in another person’s shoes. The protection of the therapy space allows this to happen in a way that feels safe to explore alongside their therapist.
Puppets provide children with a safe distance to be able to talk about things that are challenging for them. The puppet becomes an extension of the child and they can address issues that might be too painful for them to address directly.
Through expressive movement ‘feel good’ chemicals are released, and children are able to experience their bodies and feelings in a different way. Scarves, long tailed fans and pom poms can be found in the therapy room to encourage this.
The sand tray provides a contained space in which a child can play out and create a number of scenes using symbols and small world toys. The sand tray is a place where children will often access deep and subconscious play which can be a very powerful way to move children forward in the healing process.
Clay, Play-Doh and Sensory Play
Clay and Play-Doh invite sensory interaction. it allows children to express their thoughts and feelings in a non-verbal way. Clay and Play-Doh can be excellent ways for children to express their emotions, release anger, relax or gain a sense of control. Other sensory items can also be used to explore four of the five senses: sight, smell, hearing and touch. This encourages connection and helps to develop motor skills in creative ways.
Games are used to have fun, develop bonds, reduce inhibition, or increase client confidence as they recognize their ability to address and solve situations.
Therapeutic Story Telling
Therapeutic Stories are used to help children process difficult experiences and emotions through metaphor. The characters and events subtly mirror real life themes and allow time and space for the child to draw out comparisons in emotions/experiences between themselves and the characters featured.
Creative Visualisation aids physical relaxation, improves concentration, helps the child’s control over thought process and to deal with stress. It also improves a child’s mindfulness and enhances a child’s self-understanding. It improves creative thinking and memory.
Play Therapy Principles
Play Therapy is based on 8 principles identified by Virginia Axline. These are: